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Flowering Techniques for Dendrobium kingianum
By Toddybear at 2007-01-28 15:12
rchid culture books often state that Dendrobium kingianum (recently re-classified as Thelychiton kingianum) is an easy orchid for beginners. Many orchid growers would disagree. Any orchid is easy if given the proper conditions, but the proper conditions for D. kingianum are not our typical household or greenhouse conditions.
Dendrobium kingianum was my very first orchid, given to me in 1988 by a local orchid grower. This grower never got little from the plant in terms of flowers but did get plenty of keikeis. So a few keikeis were passed to me. At the time I was having great success with African Violets and this gardening friend said I should have no problems growing orchids. And thus the addiction began!
My keikeis grew gang-busters and by the following fall the plant was in a 3.5" pot. I grew the plant in an unobstructed east window.
The minimum winter temperature was about 60 F with days around 70 F. The fall and winter came and went, but no flowers. Not to worry, many orchids take a year or two to settle down and start blooming. The next fall, the plant, now in a 5" pot, produced 7 spikes! However, when the spikes were 2" long, the buds started to drop. In the end I had only 4 individual blooms. The flowers remained open for 2 months and were delightfully fragrant, smelling to me like Johnson’s Baby Powder.
I later read that in their native habitat of eastern Australia, this orchid blooms mid-winter after a cool, dry autumn season and during this rest they may actually be exposed to near freezing temperatures! So perhaps my growing area was too warm. The following late September I placed my plant in a sunny, west-facing basement window. My basement is unheated and is the area where I grow my cool-loving Cyclamen. The night temperature in that window was about 50 F with days under 65 F. At this stage I only watered my plant every 2-3 weeks. By mid-December the night temperatures were down to 38 F and the days were only 50 F. I lost 3 leaves to frost where the leaves were touching the glass! However, at this stage, the plant had the beginnings of 15 spikes! I then brought the plant back upstairs and placed it an east window where the night temperatures were about 55 F and days about 65 F. Regular weekly watering resumed. The spikes rapidly elongated and by late January I had a total of 54 blossoms. The fragrance filled the entire living room each afternoon.
Many orchids have come and gone since 1988 but I still have D. kingianum and my growing technique still results in regular flowering. This year my plant (actually an offspring from my original which got too large to handle) has a total of 165 flowers on 29 spikes! Being in a 7" pot I will probably divide it this spring or replant some keikeis.
Thus the key with D. kingianum is to grow them cold, not just cool. This technique may also be helpful for blooming other species from the Dendrocoryne section of Dendrobium (now called Thelychiton), including D. speciosum, D. aemulum, D. gracicaule and D. tetragonum. If you have any of these species, try this ‘chilling’ technique to see if you too can be successful in blooming this wonderful group of orchids.

Todd Boland

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